It was spring of 1980. Late spring, and warm before the intense heat of summer in Tucson. I was driving on a narrow street, more like a country road, a little south of the Rillito River. It was a street without curbs, ragged and weedy on the edges. On my left, the south side, short streets entered small neighborhoods of modest houses with neat front yards decorated with colorful flowers and leafy trees. On my right high grass and, at a little distance, a grove of trees made a near horizon. Suddenly I saw a sign: Patio Sale: and an arrow pointing down a narrow dirt lane toward the north.
by S Martha Montevallo ©2003
Patio Sale? Not garage sale or yard sale? I turned into the lane and drove about a quarter of a mile between stands of tall grasses and soon saw a dignified two story white frame house with a barn behind. Both were showing their age and a little neglect but still standing firm. Near the barn was a flatbed truck from about the 50s. The house faced west overlooking the forest of trees sheltering a ground cover of small plants with blue flowers.
On the porch I saw the last of the patio sale that had started a few days earlier. Not much was left except some wonderful outdated garments. Beautiful dresses of silk and wool made by a skilled dressmaker, lined, zippers picked by hand, buttons of semi-precious stones. But from the 60s and at least fifteen years out of date. I suggested that she donate them to the drama department at the University of Arizona to use as costumes. She had already thought of that. She was tall, elegant, cultured, educated, well spoken, and patient. The place was so pleasant, shady and rural, surrounded by busy Tucson, that I was inclined to linger.
A short, dumpy, elderly woman with a nimbus of white hair, sparkly eyes, and a friendly smile came out on the porch and the younger woman introduced me to her mother. She told me that she had come there as a bride in 1922, had planted all the trees providing the shade that seemed to go on and on. She had also had grass but when it got too shady for the grass to thrive her nurseryman told her about the ground cover with the shiny pointed leaves and the little blue flowers. It was such an oasis in Tucson that I was loathe to leave. The house was nearly cleared out and it was obvious that they would be moving.
I asked why they were leaving such a wonderful park like, secluded, shady sanctuary. “It’s going to be a mall,” the daughter told me. Stunned, I blurted out, “What a shame!” “Oh, Mother’s been looking forward to this since 1934.”
And a mall it is, Tucson Mall on Wetmore Road. The ladies were Mrs. Wetmore and her daughter. Now when I’m on that busy five-lane street I feel sad for the lovely place I saw only once.
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